Jordan will probably remain a broadly safe place to work and do business over 2024.
This assessment was issued to clients of Dragonfly’s Security Intelligence & Analysis Service (SIAS) on 01 February 2024.
- Clients have expressed concerns over operating this year amid a seemingly intensifying conflict between the US and Iran
- Politically the war in Gaza continues to loom large, but the main operational implications of that are likely to remain weekly pro-Palestine protests over 2024
Jordan is likely to remain broadly safe and secure over 2024. Amid an apparently intensifying Iran-US conflict in the region, a handful of clients have expressed concern about operating in the country. Despite heightened anti-West sentiment in recent months including calls to boycott some consumer goods, we have seen little to suggest that foreigners are at risk of harassment or violence. The main operational implications of the war in Gaza are likely to mainly stem from traffic blockages due to near weekly pro-Palestine protests.
Petty crime and reckless driving remain the key day-to-day risks in Jordan. Our terrorism threat level for Jordan remains moderate. And since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, jihadists have threatened to conduct attacks in Jordan, but we do not assess that they have the capability to mount a large-scale operation. Any incident would most likely be a stabbing or shooting by a lone actor against the security forces, in tourist areas or near government institutions. Given the conflict in Gaza, Israeli (though scarce) and US interests in particular would also be a target.
Anti-West sentiment and economic woes likely to remain in 2024
There is significant popular anger in Jordan about Israeli military operations in Gaza. That is not least because a large part of the population is of Palestinian origin. US and more broadly Western support for Israel throughout the conflict has also accentuated anti-West sentiment countrywide and triggered a wave of sympathy for Hamas. This has put the Jordanian government in a difficult position balancing its diplomatic and security relations with Israel and the US while also not turning the people against itself, which would threaten the regime’s stability.
The ongoing Israel-Hamas war also poses challenges to Jordan’s already-ailing economy. Tourism in the first few months of the war significantly declined; that sector in 2023 contributed to 14.6% of the country’s economy, based on local news quoting the tourism minister. In late December, local media reported a 50-75% decrease in hotel occupancy rates and reservations in the two months following the onset of the conflict in Gaza. And widespread boycotts of Western brands in Jordan have reportedly negatively impacted local workers due to Western companies having less work available than usual for those on zero-hour contracts or even considering letting go permanent staff.
Protests will probably be the main operational disruption
Near-weekly pro-Palestine protests will probably be the most visible operational consequence of the Gaza war in Jordan over 2024. That is particularly in Amman and other major cities, Palestinian refugee camps and the Jordan Valley, which borders the West Bank. In the latter half of the year, sporadic hardship protests due to the economic impact of the war are also likely. But we doubt those would become widespread; the authorities have forcefully quelled such unrest over the past decade. In December 2022 they arrested at least 30 teachers and activists for trying to organise hardship protests.
Protests usually take place on Fridays after midday prayers and last into the evening. Sporadic demonstrations on other days are also probable. In Amman, participants tend to gather near the Grand Husseini Mosque downtown. Protesters there often block traffic in the already-congested Prince Muhammad Street, King Talaal Street and Quraysh Street. Demonstrations also take place near the Israeli, US, UK and French embassies. In the Jordan Valley, protesters tend to block major roads to the Allenby border crossing into the West Bank or gather near that crossing.
Most pro-Palestine protests will probably be small and peaceful. Between October and December, several thousand people protested and rioted weekly in response to Israeli military operations in Gaza, leading to vandalism, tire burning, property damage, and clashes with security forces. Since then, turnout at such protests has fallen to several hundreds of people, mainly disrupting traffic. The popular responsiveness to such events has declined after several months of Israeli operations in Gaza. Still, triggers for further bouts of rioting include Israel’s government/military:
- Announcing its intention to govern Gaza
- Intensely bombs Rafah in southern Gaza
- Totally blocks aid into Gaza again amid UNRWA funding cut
- Kills several thousand people in West Bank operations
The security forces would very probably intervene immediately to stem any rioting over the war. That has long been the red line for the Jordanian government even though it has tried to portray itself as sympathetic to extremely disruptive protests in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
Anti-west sentiment unlikely to pose a safety risk to individuals
Western individuals are unlikely to be targets of violence in Jordan. The war has heightened anti-West sentiment among the Jordanian population. But the focus of that has been largely contained to commercial and diplomatic entities in the country. This has mainly led to protesters chanting anti-West and anti-Israeli slogans during protests, boycotts of some Western brands over perceived support for Israel and isolated acts of vandalism. But we have seen no reports of individuals being harassed in recent months.
Terrorism threat for cities remains moderate
We assess that the terrorism threat in Jordanian cities is moderate. In other words, there is a reasonable possibility that an attack will occur. Terrorist groups remain intent on carrying out attacks in Jordan; jihadist groups have threatened to conduct attacks there on online channels we monitor since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. But there are few signs that jihadists can conduct large-scale operations in Jordan. That is due to the lack of terrorist networks operating within the country and the authorities having proven highly capable at preventing attacks over the past decade.
The most deadly attack over the past decade was in December 2016 when IS-affiliated gunmen killed seven police officers and three civilians in an attack on the city of Kerak (90km south of Amman). Based on recent plots and attacks, the most likely form of attack would be a stabbing or a shooting against the security forces, tourists and local government officials. Given the conflict in Gaza, Israeli (though scarce) and US interests in particular would also be a target. The last attack involving explosives, based on our data, was in February 2019, when two bomb explosions killed a civilian and two members of the security forces in Wadi Al-Azraq, Balqa governorate.
Image: Demonstrators chant slogans near the Israeli Embassy to show solidarity with the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip in Amman, Jordan, on 20 October 2023. Photo by Khalil Mazraawi/AFP via Getty Images.